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Can the Wim Hof method help your anxiety?

Hannah Bullimore finds out...

By Hannah Bullimore

Ice baths, cold showers and deep, quick breathing doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for relaxation. However, the Wim Hof method, which recommends all three of the above, has grown in popularity across the world as a way to soothe anxiety, build strength of body and mind and improve quality of life.

I first heard about the Wim Hof method at a yoga conference two years ago. There was a talk about it and after reading the practice included cold showers, I decided to pass.

However, fast forward to the great lockdown of 2020 and I found myself binge-watching Goop Lab on Netflix. The show follows the team at Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s famously controversial lifestyle brand. I was watching out of curiosity, not expecting anything of value from a brand that has seen more controversy than any other in the wellbeing space.

However, a few episodes in and there was Wim Hof. An over-excited Dutchman promising to help the Goop workers with their anxiety as well as autoimmune disease simply by practicing breath control and taking cold showers daily.

Now, it sounds too good to be true but when Hof began to explain the method, a lot of it sounded believable. He explained that throughout evolution our bodies were designed to cope with extremes of temperature, but now we simply wrap up in the cold, meaning our bodies are less prepared to cope with stress.

He took a team of Goop workers to an ice lake and they all jumped in, swam and explained they felt clearer-headed, stronger and more full of life.

I read into his method and was curious. The deep breathing and holding of breath he uses does lead to a head rush and then a buzz of energy. Cold showers? I was nervous, but you start off in a warm shower, turn it to cold and stay for fifteen seconds, then build up. And once you step out of the shower you feel warm and cosy.

I can’t say for sure it’s helped my anxiety or my aches and pains but I am interested to keep trying the method and see if it’s worth the hype.

After all, Hoff has 1.3 million Instagram followers – they can’t all be wrong, can they?

Try it for yourself! 

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